Scott Grimando was born in 1968 in New York. He studied at Nassau Community College and Stevenson Academy of Traditional Painting. He maintains dual careers doing work in both advertising and illustration. He works in various mediums, including sketching, painting, digital painting, and photography, often utilizing more than one medium in each work. He has done book illustration work for major publishing houses as well as for Warner Brothers, Disney, Harley Davidson, Lucas Films, Nike, and major sports franchises. His work has been collected in an art book entitled SQP The Art of the Mythical Woman: Lucid Dreams. He currently lives in Long Island. His website is www.grimstudios.com.
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You have done illustration work for some of the most famous writers in speculative fiction (Heinlein, Stross, Anne McCaffrey) and some of the most famous properties (Star Wars, Blade Runner). Talk to us about the process of working on such projects. What sort of freedom were you given on various projects? And if there is a film version of the property, when are you required to use the faces of the actors from the film versions?
With a property like Star Wars, the characters were clearly defined from the get go. Funny that the original Star Wars poster by the Hildebrandt Brothers utilized their friends as Luke and Lea. Aside from that, Lucas Films doesn’t allow for interpretation so an illustrator has to be creative with the composition and hope his unique style comes across despite the restrictions.
With something like The Lord of the Rings, the characters have been open to interpretation since the beginning. Tolkien wasn’t overly descriptive about his characters. Unless an artist was hired for a movie studio licensed project, it would show an incredible lack of imagination to use the films as templates for an illustration.
In the case of my Golden Compass illustrations or anything I’ve done for, say, Disney or Warner Brothers, they’re licensing projects. So I’m bound to the licensor’s style guide.
It is hard to figure out what your technique is. There appear to be both extremely fine, classical painting techniques at play as well as some digital enhancement of textures and colors. Can you walk us through your process technically?
I’m a classically trained painter, having studied under Harold Stevenson, one of the few students of Norman Rockwell, as a teenager. I guess that influence is always going to come through. Painting theory influences everything I create, but I think that my digital work has become completely divergent from my painted work. I’m trying to stay ahead of the trends and create a new form of fine art.
As far as technique, everything starts with a rough sketch to work out the composition. After that I begin gathering reference from my photography library. I’ve been shooting reference since I was a teenager. If I don’t have what I need for the rough stage of the assignment I’ll shoot a friend as a stand-in until I can get approval on the design. After that I start looking for a model, book a shoot, and make a costume if I need to.
If there’s something I can’t piece together in Photoshop, I’ll make a 3D model and render that at the angle and with the lighting I need to match the scene.
Everything gets composited in Photoshop and heavily reworked until it’s seamless and believable. That’s where the painting skill really comes in.
While the works are illustrational, they are employing clear techniques of composition from classical fine art training. For example, in The Stairs, the repetition of the circular pattern in the position of the figure at the center of the spiraling stairs, while also placing the viewer floating impossibly in the middle of the stairwell, at risk of dropping several floors at any time, creates a delicious, vertiginous disorientation. You have similar repetition of circular motifs in the illustration for Robert Heinlein’s Future History, creating a sense of expansive space radiating outward on the composition. How much room do you have to incorporate such fine art techniques in the context of a commissioned illustration?
Very observant of you! Repetitive patterns are a good way to draw the viewer into the image. If you’re subtle about it, they don’t even realize what’s drawn them in. I learned that trick from reading one of Robert Bateman’s art books. He’s a wildlife painter who has been a huge influence on my composition style. Especially in my wildlife photography. When I’m framing a shot in the wild, I’m always thinking, “What would Robert Bateman do?”
You bring all of your knowledge and experience to every creative project you tackle.
Publishers hire an illustrator because they like their style. They want the illustrator to come up with a visually interesting solution to the design problem at hand.
It is clear that you are extremely comfortable with anatomy and faces and figurative work. However, your interest in structure and engineering is apparent from the beautiful ship and architectural design that you do. Why do you not do more pieces with vehicles or architecture as subjects?
My first passion is the human form, but I do love to create imaginary worlds. The heavy architectural or spacecraft driven work is very time consuming. I’m always excited to tackle that sort of space opera project when a publisher calls for it.
I recently divided my science fiction art page into three categories, with space opera in the middle, to show that I do have a large body of work in that vein.
It appears from your projects that you grew up immersed in Golden Age Science Fiction. Is that the case, or is it simply due to the fact that you have been hired to work on such projects? What stories/imagery captured your imagination the most and made you want to be an illustrator?
What’s Golden Age SF? The 1940s or ’50s? I’m not that old. When I was a little kid in the 1970s, we watched nothing but science fiction and fantasy. Although we were a physically active family, we didn’t watch any sports. I saw every rerun of Star Trek and The Twilight Zone, as well as every movie that came out, because my father was into it, too.
When I was little, I wanted to be a comic book artist. I think the turning point was when my father bought me a Boris Vallejo calendar in 1981. I knew then that I wanted to be an illustrator.
A professional artist has to be very aware of the trends in the industry and always try to stay current. Hopefully I stay ahead of the trends and help to define the next one. The trend right now is towards a very photographic look. I get hired because I can achieve that with elements that can’t be photographed.
I’ve been developing a hyperrealism style that looks so three-dimensional that it almost jumps off the page. We’ll see how the art directors and fans respond.
Do you have a favorite character among the characters you have created?
I’ve really had the opportunity over the past ten years to define the look of Mike Shepherd/Moscoe’s Kris Longknife Universe. Even though the main characters are prominent on all of the covers (fifteen so far) I still create a new piece of architecture or spaceship every time.
I’m looking forward to doing more concept design for film and TV. I’ve done work for Hallmark Entertainment as well as various gaming and costume companies.
What is your dream project?
My dream project is to become a hermit and live in the mountains surrounded inexplicably by gorgeous models that I can paint.
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